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Upgrading an Aging Self-Storage Facility: Options for Increasing Site Value and Marketability

Devan Williams Comments

In today’s economic climate, many self-storage owners and developers are looking to invest in or modernize existing facilities rather than construct new ones. This is in no small part due to the vacancy rates and depressed values the industry is experiencing, and the challenge in gaining or retaining tenants. Thankfully, it can be beneficial to renovate and upgrade aging facilities.

Older facilities were designed to suit the needs of years past, sometimes several decades ago. Those needs are not necessarily the requirements of today and beyond, and the value and marketability of many self-storage sites can be increased through renovation and upgrades.

Of course, every facility is different, and not all approaches work at every property. A separate analysis for the possibility of restoration should be done for each site. There are many ways to upgrade a property. The following are some of the more effective and practical methods.
Add Climate Control
Many older facilities were built without climate-controlled units. In the past, self-storage was simply viewed as a space to store stuff; but as the industry and consumer needs evolved, climate control became a service many customers expect. One of the great benefits is climate-controlled units are typically rented at higher rates, which can add great value to a facility.

Depending on the particular facility design, adding climate control can be an easy modification or quite complex. Many things need to be reviewed, such as power requirements of the HVAC units. Does your current electrical system have enough capacity to add the HVAC units, or will additional power be needed? Another consideration is insulation for the walls and ceilings, and the kind of work this would require, particularly if a new roof would be needed to accommodate insulation or roof-mounted units.
Fix Failing Structures

Occasionally, older facilities were built with materials that would not last, or the design was simplified to the point that weather-proofing of certain structures was basic at best. Oftentimes maintenance was not performed on caulked joints, roof sealants, etc. This may have caused damage to roof systems, roof supports, and even walls and foundations. In these situations, cost-effective solutions are many and diverse.

If there has been roof damage, the roof may need to be replaced entirely or only certain portions of it. If metal components have started to rust, you may be able to salvage the material, or it may be necessary to change it. In all situations where structural members are subjected to damage, it’s a good idea to have a structural engineer review the destruction and determine the proper course of action.
Expand Into Available Space

At some sites, a portion of land was left open with the intention of adding to the facility later, which may never have occurred. There are now several ways to use that available space.

If funds are low, you can create RV and boat parking by simply adding a dust-resistant surface such as gravel, crushed asphalt, etc. If you already have this kind of parking, you can upgrade to covered parking by paving over the area and adding canopies to protect vehicles from the sun and weather. This would allow you to charge additional rent above that of uncovered parking, thereby increasing the value of the property.

Another option, if funding is available and there’s demand in your market, is to construct a new building. There are a couple ways to approach this expansion. You can match the existing building’s style and type, keeping it homogeneous. The alternative is to build toward a sector of the storage market that’s not yet accommodated by your facility or its competitors. If the facility has primarily interior storage space, consider adding large, exterior enclosed storage for vehicles. This would attract a different sector of the market to the facility.

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